Gig review: Kevin Devine and the Goddamn band/Laura Stevenson/The Lion and The Wolf/ George Gadd @Bodega, Nottingham

Posted: February 14, 2017 in Liveage

Image result for live bodega nottingham Kevin Devine

So, this was a night of wonderful acoustic strumming and indie rock head-bobbing at the locally renowned Bodega in Nottingham. I liked all of the artists from this night and loved some of them. It was great that everyone put passion and soul into what they do, and put their own spin on the folk genre. So, there was variety on show here, but perhaps a shared vision and spirit.

First up was local folk/indie kid, George Gadd. I’ll admit two things: firstly, I had never heard of George before, despite this being my hometown, and secondly, I only saw about half of his set. However, what I saw was pretty good indeed. I realise that on his demo, he has recorded with a band, but here, it was just George and a guitar. It worked, what he did. There was a beautiful simplicity to it, highlighting his clear adeptness for songwriting. He reminds me, in parts, of early, raw Frank Turner, without the anger and lust for anarchy that Frank had in those days. The crowd were clearly getting pretty into it and the venue was ¾ packed, despite the early time. I would certainly be up for hearing more from Mr. Gadd!

Next up was another acoustic guy, who calls himself The Lion and The Wolf. He plays high intensity, but low tempo folk-country musings on subjects clearly close to his heart (such as his father being taken to hospital). I generally prefer my acoustic tales to have more energy to them, but it’s hard not to like The Lion and The Wolf when the songwriting is this good. I would put him sonically in the same ball-park as people like John Allen, Sam Russo or Ducking Punches. The brooding atmospherics of Sam Russo particularly come to mind, trading the gravelly vocals for more high-pitched, optimistic ones. The Lion and The Wolf talked about how he had quit his job a couple of years ago for a life strumming his guitar on the road, and that is always fucking cool to hear!

The penultimate act of the night was the wonderful Laura Stevenson. A Don Giovanni favourite, Laura plays folk with such wonderful emotional outpourings that it is difficult not to get completely invested in her songs. I’ve been a fan for a good few years, but go in and out of phases of listening to her records, but this gig certainly instigated a new listening period. I have seen her live once before a few years ago, with her band ‘the cans’, somewhat bizarrely in a theatre in Grenoble, France, supporting an Australian singer-songwriter (of which I forget the name). The Bodega was much more Laura’s forte and crowd. Without The Cans, Laura stuck to her slower, more intense tracks, avoiding the poppy energy of stuff like “Jellyfish”, which worked well in the environment. A good proportion of her set seemed to be from “The Wheel” album, the one I am least familiar with, but that I have now purchased. “The Move”, particularly stood out with its emotional honesty:  “You’re finally finding out that I’m not supposed to get better, but I said I won’t be quite like this forever, coz I’m a liar and a thief”. I’m also super glad that Laura played an oldie in “Nervous Rex” (one of the best croons ever on record: “And I haven’t left the house in about a hundred years”) as well as ending with what she describes herself as the “only happy song” she has ever written, “Barnacles”. Few folk artists have the vocal range and songwriting intensity as Laura, and seeing her live again reinforced this to me!

So, onto the main act of the night: Kevin Devine and his Goddamn band! This was the first artist of the night that played with a band, turning up the volume a few hundred notches, with their crunchy, but melodic take on indie rock. How to describe Kevin Devine? To simplify things, they remind me of a rougher, punkier version of Nada Surf, with intensely personal lyrics to boot. To be honest, I wasn’t too well-acquainted with Kevin’s work and was astounded to hear that he has just released his 9th album. How is this guy not totally huge? The hooks are massive, the live sound is tight as a gnat’s arse and the songwriting is up there with the best. Kevin book-ended the indie rock crunch with passionate, acoustic jamming, when the band went to take a rest in the back. As much as I like the full-band stuff, I think Kevin was at his best, when he was pouring his heart out with only a guitar and raw vocals. This included the fantastic “Ballgame”, “Brother’s Blood” and closer “I Was Alive Back Then”. A simply great set, and one which has properly brought me into Mr. Devine’s world. I’ve got a fair bit of back catalogue to get through…

DB

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